President-elect Donald Trump can point to any number of factors that led to his election to be the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Other than the desire for change (which was a huge factor) a leading reason was the vacancy on the Supreme Court left when Justice Antonin Scalia suddenly passed away.
For many moderate to lean conservative voters who may have otherwise voted for Clinton, the prospect of the liberals taking over the court was too much to bear.
The big question is, who will Trump pick? In an unconventional move (in a very unconventional election) Trump released a list of his possible picks before the election. Chances are he will likely pick from that list. It’s become a D.C. parlor game to try to guess who he will pick.
Even though he was not on the list, I would argue Trump should consider Senator Ted Cruz. Cruz clerked at the Supreme Court, was the Solicitor General for Texas, and obviously, ran for President. The calculation for Trump would be like the move President Obama made in appointing Jon Huntsman Jr. as Ambassador to China – neutralize potential opposition. Obama believed that Huntsman would be a formidable opponent in his re-election efforts. As it turned out, Huntsman took the job, only to resign and return to the U.S. and mount a campaign. Obama’s concerns about Huntsman may have been accurate in a General Election, but he hadn’t thought through how difficult it would be for Huntsman to get through the primary.
If Trump were to pick Cruz for the Supreme Court, it would be (in part) to prevent Cruz from mounting a primary challenge in 2020. It would also be a pretty good move because Cruz is a conservative and he is young – he could be on the bench for 30 or 40 years.
Another reason to pick Cruz would be that he is so unpopular with both Republican and Democrat Senators that he may get Senate approval by acclamation! Anyone else is certain to face a brutal confirmation process as Democrats take their frustrations of losing the White House out on Trump’s nominee.
Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating process to watch.
Usually, when political hacks talk about the “undervote” we are talking about how many fewer votes a particular race had than votes for President or Governor in a district or state. However, the 2016 election exposed a new phenomenon: the presidential undervote.
In Arizona, there were 2,554,240 votes cast for President. However, there were a total of 2,661,497 ballots cast. That means that 107,257 people voted in the election but did not cast a vote for President. That is an astounding number when you compare it with the undervote in previous presidential elections. In 2012 it was 34,777, in 2008 it was 28,771, and in 2004 it was 28,734.
And the presidential undervote this year was not unique to Arizona. A Washington Post analysis shows that in the 33 state where they were able to collect the data, 1.7 million people cast a ballot but did not vote for President. Arizona ranked 2nd highest as a percentage of people who did not vote for President (behind Montana).
Obviously, the record number of people abstaining in the Presidential election is a reflection on the candidates. Donald Trump had some seriously unfavorable ratings heading into Election Day, as did Hillary Clinton. And Clinton didn’t inspire the Democratic base the way Obama did in 2008 and 2012.
Clinton was also a terrible candidate, and while the media fawned over the “amazing” operation coming out of Brooklyn, we now know that they were too smart for their own good. They made some assumptions about the election, created a model, and then never tested the model with inputs throughout the campaign.
On the morning of Election Day, internal Clinton campaign numbers had her winning Michigan by 5 points. By 1 p.m., an aide on the ground called headquarters; the voter turnout tracking system they’d built themselves in defiance of orders — Brooklyn had told operatives in the state they didn’t care about those numbers, and specifically told them not to use any resources to get them — showed urban precincts down 25 percent. Maybe they should get worried, the Michigan operatives said.
Nope, they were told. She was going to win by 5. All Brooklyn’s data said so.
President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign on the other hand was hopeful, but not confident, that he would pull off the win. They also had a data operation, but the difference was they were continuing to get inputs and making changes to strategy up to the weekend before the election. It was not just on a whim that Trump went to Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin in the last days of the campaign.
The question is how will future Presidential elections look? Is the 2016 presidential undervote an anomaly, or is this the new normal? We won’t know for four more years.
Every election cycle has what pundits call “inflection points”: moments in a campaign that have some defining impact. Moments like Rick Perry in a 2012 debate forgetting the third department of the federal government he would shut down. Or like Marco Rubio deciding to go to Trump’s level of rancor.
Interestingly, the Wisconsin primary was one of those inflection points for both the GOP and Democratic races.
Ted Cruz’s big win all but assured that Republicans are headed to a contested convention in Cleveland. Yes, it’s still possible for Donald Trump to secure 1,237 delegates by the time the last vote is cast on June 7th in California, but it is very improbable.
And, with Bernie Sanders’s trouncing of Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin, he continues to chip away at what most had believed was an insurmountable lead in delegates. Part of why Clinton’s lead has appeared so daunting is because the vast majority of super delegates have committed to her over Sanders (469-31).
However, if you count only the pledged delegates (those are the normal delegates that you win in primaries and caucuses) Hillary leads Sanders by 1,298 to 1,079 – just 221. There are still 1,977 unpledged delegates remaining.
Still, Clinton has all those super delegates. But here is the caveat: a large number of those super delegates are Democrat elected officials (think Members of Congress, state legislators, etc.) who are ultimately going to act on self-interest. If they start to feel the pressure of Sanders’s momentum and see Sanders continue to tighten the race, Clinton could suffer defections of super delegates just like she did in 2008 when late in the primary season Barack Obama got the big mo.
Does Bernie have the big mo? Well, he has won 7 of the last 8 contests. He will win Wyoming this coming weekend. Polling shows that voters in New York, the state Hillary represented in the Senate and she should win handily, are warming to Sanders. Two months ago, Clinton led by more than 20 points; now it’s barely 10 points.
It’s looking increasingly likely that both the Republicans and the Democrats will face contested conventions. And that will be good for Republicans for two reasons: 1) the Democratic convention will be more chaotic than the Republican convention. Democratic base activists tend to be much more aggressive (especially towards law enforcement) than Republican activists and will create more tension, 2) and the Democratic convention comes the week after the Republican convention, so as we enter the General Election phase of the cycle the voters will have the imagery of chaos and tension seared into their minds from the nightly news coverage.
For Democrats, this could be Chicago 1968 all over again: 1968 Democratic Convention Riots
The first week of 2016 brought something that I hadn’t expected: President Obama and I are in agreement. Last week, the president previewed his State of the Union Address from the Oval Office saying, “Since I took office seven years ago, in the midst of crisis, I don’t think I’ve ever been more optimistic abut the year ahead.” (odd for him to say considering in January of 2009 he had his vision of change and a Democrat Congress to achieve it, but I guess “yes, we can” was less convincing to him than his followers.) What’s more, we both agree on at least one cause of this optimism: that this is his last year as president.
My other reason for optimism, Paul Ryan’s speakership, is likely not shared by the president. Ryan’s ability to communicate the way in which conservative principles can improve Americans’ daily lives and his Midwestern, earnest and steadfast promise keeping will be refreshing for the Republican base and the House Freedom Caucus. If Speaker Ryan says he will do something, it’s going to happen.
2015 closed with a budget deal that had Rush Limbaugh shrieking the “GOP [sold] America down the river.” In a nutshell, the pundits and many in the Freedom Caucus were frustrated that Ryan didn’t threaten a government shutdown in order to defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood—two things that won’t happen while Barack Obama is in the White House. Political punditry and showmanship are easy, governing is hard; it requires wisdom and patience, uncommon virtues in Washington. Thankfully for Republicans, Paul Ryan has both.
Upon assuming speakership, Ryan was handed a budget deal that was a fait accompli. He had two options: blow the deal up, shutdown the government, and start the 2016 Election Year in turmoil; or snatch a few important victories within the deal and start 2016 with a clean slate on which to write a clear, conservative vision for the country. Paul Ryan withstood pressure from the “politics-over-governance crew” and chose the latter.
The budget deal permanently removed the ban on oil exports, strengthening our position in dealing with the Middle East and Russia while boosting our economy at home; prevented the sequester from hitting the military so that our beleaguered forces get the resources they need in this dangerous world; and protected free speech by preventing the IRS from transforming abusive tactics into sanctioned policies. The IRS provision alone was worth the price, because we can undo spending in the future easier than re-instating First Amendment rights taken away. Not bad for an admittedly crappy bill.
Then, in the first week of the New Year, Paul Ryan did exactly what he promised, sending to Obama’s desk a bill that defunds Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. Of course, the president vetoed it, but the public discussion will be about the issues presented in the bill, rather than inside-the-beltway gridlock and bickering. Moreover, passage of the bill shows the American people that Republicans are capable of governing.
As the year continues, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s help, Americans will realize that “a more prosperous, a more secure, and a more confident America is possible.”
Yes Mr. President, I’m very optimistic.
Townhall.com published my latest column. Here are some excerpts:
As the new Congress, now controlled by Republicans in both houses, settles in for work in Washington D.C., there will be huge expectations from those on the Right. It will be important for Republicans to balance the “do-something” chorus and President Obama, who believes he can rule by veto-threat.
In addition to rolling back disasters like ObamaCare, Republicans should look at the next two years as a public relations battle, not just a legislative battle. Some on the right have said nothing short of a repeal of ObamaCare is good enough. However, there is a case to be made for small victories.
Financial guru Dave Ramsey often talks about the “Debt Snowball” principle. Rather than using the traditional method of paying off personal debt starting with the card with the highest interest rate, Ramsey suggests that you ignore the interest rates and start with the smallest debt. Then pay off the next smallest card, adding the previous debt’s minimum payment. Ramsey writes:
“The point of the debt snowball is behavior modification. In our example, if you start paying on the student loan first because it’s the largest debt, you won’t see it leave for a while. You’ll see numbers going down on a page, but that’s it. Pretty soon, you’ll lose steam and stop paying extra, but you’ll still have all your debts hanging around.
But when you ditch the small debt first, you see progress.”
This is what the Republican Congress needs: a few small victories to build momentum and show the American people that they can make progress.
As free-market conservatives, we have a lot of big goals, like repealing ObamaCare. However, we can’t let that cloud our appreciation and support for small victories like the Save American Workers Act and other legislation in American Encore’s Blueprint for 2015. These small victories can give us much-needed momentum that shows the American people that Republicans are committed to reform, not just rhetoric.
Read the entire piece here.
If you follow Arizona politics, you probably know that Senator John McCain made an appearance at the State Meeting of the Arizona Republican Party last Saturday. It was newsworthy because this is the same state party that censured McCain last year.
It was not without its drama – there were a few folks who booed very loudly and a handful who really showed “who is boss” by keeping their backs turned to McCain throughout his speech. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t be seen from the stage because they were way, way in the back corner.
McCain gave a passionate speech about the dangers we face in the world (Russia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc.) and why the current Obama policy is failing to keep us safe.
At one point, someone yelled, “You’re a war mongrel!” Now, I’m guessing he meant “warmonger,” but, alas, either the adrenaline got to him, or he actually didn’t know what he was yelling.
Think about it: in a Republican meeting of State Committeemen (the very definition of “base Republicans”) someone is so out of touch with Republican principles and policy that they accuse a U.S. Senator, who was tortured for five years as a prisoner of war, of being a warmonger. For a second, I thought I was at an Occupy Wall Street rally.
Thankfully, the vast majority of attendees were cheering and applauding Sen. McCain and his speech – thus demonstrating that the critics of McCain were a distinct minority.
To his credit, State Party Chairman, Robert Graham, got up after McCain’s speech and admonished those who had shown complete disrespect. It was a moment of leadership that has defined the kind of Chairman Graham has been: fair-minded, following the rules, and urging unity. It’s no wonder Graham won a landslide re-election as Chairman, garnering nearly 80% of the vote.
Graham’s landslide victory is also a testament to an Arizona Republican Party that is excelling. Graham raised significant money for the 2014 cycle and made the party relevant again. No one can say that Republicans didn’t elect a strong conservative slate of statewide officers and a conservative legislature.
But let’s get back to McCain.
Despite some national groups calling him their number one target, I don’t believe Senator McCain will face a serious challenge – either in the primary or the general election in 2016. Here’s why:
- Obama’s foreign policy will continue to be a complete failure. There will be more terrorist attacks (like what happened in France) and some American lives might even be lost. From his post as the Senate Armed Services Chairman, Senator McCain will have ample opportunity to try to hold the Obama administration accountable for their failed foreign policy.
- Anyone who is thinking about mounting a challenge to McCain remembers what happened to JD Hayworth. It wasn’t pretty.
- 2016 is likely to be framed in the context of a national security election. If there is one thing that unifies the base of the Republican Party it is that we believe the first (and almost only) function of government is to “provide for the common defense.” If McCain is leading that charge, it will be hard for someone to get traction against him.
There are probably other reasons, but for now, a real challenge doesn’t seem to be shaping up.
A week and a half ago, the Chicago Bears’ Lamarr Houston suffered a season-ending injury as a result of a post-play celebration. Mr. Houston sacked the Patriots’ backup quarterback…while the Bears were losing by 25 points…in the fourth quarter. Aside from looking like an idiot, Houston now cannot do the job for which he is paid millions. In the coming weeks and months, Republicans risk committing the same error: rendering themselves incapable due to unnecessary and unwarranted celebrations.
Yes, Republicans won big this midterm – once all the dust settles they will have picked up at least nine seats in the Senate, adding at least 15 seats to their majority in the House, and will occupy 32 Governor’s seats. It was a blowout – primarily because the nation’s problems are big and our president incompetent. So while we cheer for the wave of wins, the reasons for the wins are not necessarily cause for celebration.
Abroad America’s influence diminishes. We’re weak, we lack resolve; we waffle on issues where we once stood firm. Our foes move in to fill the power vacuum and instability reigns.
At home, “mistakes” in Washington turn to scandals, which result in crises of confidence, giving way to partisan squabbling; rinse and repeat. Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the IRS, the VA, the cycle seems endless. Meanwhile, too many Americans remain out of work, the economy remains feeble, the Affordable Care Act remains unaffordable and uncaring, and the American Dream slips farther out of reach.
Polling in the lead up to Election Day showed that a large majority of Americans think we’re headed in the wrong direction, an ABC/Washington Post poll showed 70% think our country is on the wrong track. And, more than half of Americans, 54% according to Gallup, disapprove of Obama. These voters hope, skeptically perhaps, that the GOP can fix it or at least stem the tide of failure.
In 2012, had voters known what they know today, they would have elected Mitt Romney and I firmly believe our nation would now be on the upswing. Thanks however to a media that seeks to create “a narrative” of the world it wants rather than reporting the facts, Americans went to the polls woefully under-informed about Obama’s true job performance.
In a free society, the truth eventually gets out. No matter what damage control sound bites liberal pundits spin our way— “the opposing party historically tends to win big in midterm elections, especially during a president’s second term,” seems to be the go-to line—Obama’s lies, cover-ups, mismanagement, and failures are the reason the GOP now controls both the House and Senate. Jovial or smug celebrations on our part would demonstrate to voters that Republicans aren’t up to the task of governing either.
So, before we start that victory dance, Republicans must recognize that Americans didn’t vote for us because they think we’re good, but because they think we cannot be worse. Let’s not prove them wrong. Skip the celebration. It’s time to govern.
Election Night 2014 ongoing updates.
(11:00 pm EST) – Networks have reversed their call for New Hampshire as Brown gains ground as votes continue to be counted.
Tillis is growing his lead over Sen. Hagan in North Carolina.
In Arizona – Ducey declared winner for Governor in Arizona. Republican Mark Brnovich, the cinderella story of Arizona politics this year, is leading Democrat Felicia Rotellini 53-47 in Attorney General race. Michelle Reagan leads Terry Goddard 52-48 for Secretary of State.
(10:00 pm EST) – Gardner has won the Senate race in Colorado. That is a HUGE win.
(9:30 pm EST) – South Dakota has been called for Mike Rounds – another pick up for the GOP march towards a Senate Majority. While the networks have called New Hampshire for Sen. Shaheen, it’s only a four point spread with 33% of precincts reporting. A little early.
Colorado has about 50% reporting and Gardner leads Sen. Udall by five.
Virginia continues to look very close – could be the story of the night.
Gov. Rick Scott appears to have overcome the challenge from Charlie Crist in Florida.
(8:30 pm EST) – Polls just closed in Arkansas and the race is already called for Tom Cotton – who defeated Sen. Mark Pryor. The wave continues.
(7:45 pm EST) – Polls have closed in Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. McConnell has been declared the winner in Kentucky, Capito wins West Virginia, Perdue led in the exit polls in Georgia, and exit polls in North Carolina showed the race tied.
Exits showed leads for the GOP in IA, CO, AR, AK, and KS.
If all that holds, GOP Senate majority is a certainty.
Political folks like me rely on a lot of different information when they try to prognosticate about elections. Money raised and spent, voter registration, historical turnout, polling, anecdotal stories from the campaign trail, data from voter ID calls, and door knocks – you get the picture.
And sometimes, it’s just a feeling. An instinct. A sense that there is something palpable happening.
I felt that way in 2010 with the House races. It seemed like every day there was new evidence that there was going to be a big, big wave.
Turns out, there was a huge wave.
Well, I’m feeling that way again. Granted, the wave seems smaller, or at least much later in breaking, and that might actually mean something. A late-breaking wave that hits closer to shore is more disruptive than one that breaks further out. So, this late breaking wave could be very disruptive.
Setting aside my gut instinct, here are some fundamental reasons Republicans are going to have a big win tomorrow night.
This is probably the most important indicator that Democrats are in trouble. The President is incredibly unpopular and voters will punish many Democrats on the ballot because of it.
Much better ground game on the right
There has been some serious investment by the RNC and GOP state parties as well as from conservative outside groups like Americans for Prosperity to staff field operations that are doing real outreach to low-propensity voters that will help off-set the built-in advantages of the Democrats.
Better use of technology
One of the things I harp on when people talk about using technology in politics is that all the technology in the world doesn’t do a bit of good unless you have the manpower to actually put it to use. Given that the conservative ground game is doing much better, there is some great use of technology that is helping the right close the gap with the left.
Early spending from outside groups
One of the things that most people have forgotten, since it feels like the campaign has gone on forever, is that there were some outside groups running issue ads against incumbent Democrat Senators in the spring… of last year!
This was meant to start to drive up the unfavorables of incumbents – and force the other side to spend money much earlier than they had planned. This strategy is paying off, because most of those incumbents are in grave danger of losing tomorrow.
So those are the fundamentals of what will happen tomorrow. Here is how I think it actually goes down in the Senate races.
Republicans will certainly win the following states:
Not as certain, but states I still think go Republican are:
We won’t know it tomorrow, because there will be a run-off, but the Republicans will win Louisiana in December.
Also, Republicans will hold their seats in Kentucky, Georgia and Kansas. We may have to wait until January for Republicans to win Georgia if it goes to a run-off. That means a net gain of 10 seats for the GOP.
And then there are the close, but not quite, seats – what I call the “what could have been” seats. The Republican candidates will finish much closer than expected in Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, and New Mexico. My guess is that Virginia could be as close as 2-3 points, with a very slim possibility that the Republican wins. The losses in Minnesota, Oregon and New Mexico will likely be by less than 6 points.
And, for the U.S. House, I am predicting a NET gain of 15-18 seats. Yes, bullish – but I think it’s that kind of year. It only takes a net of 9 seats for the Republicans to have their largest majority since 1946.
Now, we wait and see.
President Obama and his policies are very bad for the United States. As conservatives, we know that. Heck, most Americans believe it.
So when conservatives overreact to something Obama says, it makes other criticisms of him and his policies less impactful.
Case in point is a comment that Obama said a couple days ago about stay at home moms. The headline in the Weekly Standard blared: Obama on Moms Who Stay Home to Raise Kids: ‘That’s Not a Choice We Want Americans to Make’
Now, that certainly sounds outrageous. But is that actually what happened? Here is Obama’s quote on that point:
Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.
My interpretation is that what Obama was trying to say was that moms (or dads) who choose to stay home with their kids should be stuck earning a lower wage later when they re-enter the workforce.
I generally agree with that. What I don’t want is government dictating that parents who leave the workforce to raise kids come back into the workforce at a certain wage or salary. That should be left up to market forces. And, if business owners are smart, they will take into account the skills, experience, and talent of parents re-entering the workforce.
A good treatment on this comes from Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist. She points out that moms who choose to stay at home recognize that their earning potential will be impacted in the future – and they still make the choice to stay at home.
At the same time, I’m struck by how shallow our discussion of parenting is. Of all the things to note about how parenting changes you, the craziest is the idea that the only thing that really matters is income. Yes, I traded income for more time with my children. And I still do.
And I’m the winner in this exchange, as are my children. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family with much happiness but not much in the banking account. I don’t know. But I learned from my parents that there are things far more valuable than cash money. Time with my children far exceeds any paycheck I’ve received (it may help that I’m a writer, admittedly). I treasure the moments I’ve had caring for them, watching them reach milestones, seeing them conquer obstacles, helping them learn musical instruments or how to read. I have never had a job — particularly some of the horrible office jobs I’ve had — that came close to the joy and fulfillment I’ve had with my daughters.
The bottom line for me is that Obama gives us plenty of things to criticize fairly. We don’t need to overreach to make the point that he’s been a terrible president and that the country is in worse shape know that in should be.
If anything, the results on Tuesday are going to prove that point in spades.